A Clean Sweep: Mastering Sweep-Picked Arpeggios with Yngwie Malmsteen

by Yngwie Malmsteen
Posted Apr 17, 2013 at 11:21am

The following is a classic Guitar World column by Yngwie Malmsteen.

When I was first getting into the guitar, I played it incessantly. I lived it, breathed it, ate it and slept it. I was also extremely self-critical, so from early on, I made sure to develop good playing habits — I constantly strove to sound in tune and have a great tone, and to play cleanly and in time.

But I was also very hard on myself. If I played something incorrectly, I whipped myself mercilessly. Whenever I made a mistake, I made sure that I would never allow myself to repeat it.

Every guitarist wants to play well. But in reality, if good intentions were all it took, then everyone would be great. The simple truth is that in order to become good, you have to be obsessed. You have to put in an awful lot of time and hard work, and couple that with desire and unflagging perseverance.

Now I can’t give you the burning desire to become a great player. That has to come from within you (but believe me, the rewards that come from all the years of hard work are worth the effort). What I can do, however, is give you some pointers on how you can make better use of your practice time.

For starters, whenever you encounter a new or difficult technique, don’t learn it half-assed, and don’t rush through it. It’s essential that you be patient and take the time to break down the mechanics required to master it.

Here’s a good example: last month we talked about arpeggios, an area that gives a lot of guitarists problems. Now, most guitarists can get away with playing the two- and three-string arpeggios we covered last month using just about any picking technique, but when you have to play arpeggios spanning over five or six strings, the technical challenges become magnified. The only way to really get any speed when playing these kind of arpeggios is to use sweep picking—picking three or more strings in the same direction with a single stroke.

I think most guitarists have a general idea of how to approximate the sweep picking technique, but only a few truly play it correctly. That’s because most players simply don’t put in the time and effort necessary to master it.

Whenever a guitarist can’t execute sweep arpeggios properly, it’s usually because he holds down a barre chord while articulating each note (and the notes end up ringing into each other), or he tries to play very fast, and in the process sacrifices the precision and clarity needed to make this technique sound good. Either way, it sounds like s---.


The only way to correct these problems is to break down the right- and left-hand components of sweep picking, master them separately, and then coordinate them. Of course, it’s not easy. You’ll have to put in a lot of practice time to get it right.

To get a feel for the right-hand picking technique, you have to let the pick “fall” from string to string as if you were strumming a chord. It’s important that you don’t separate the pick strokes. When executing an upward sweep, drag the pick upward over the strings in one fluid motion. Again, it’s imperative that you don’t use individual upstrokes.


The left-hand component is just as important. You need to mute each string with the left hand immediately after picking it (by lightly lifting—or “rolling”—your fretting finger) to keep the notes from running into one another and sounding like a strummed chord.

I’ve written out some of my favorite arpeggio patterns for you to practice. FIGURE 1 depicts an A minor arpeggio played in three different positions, while FIGURE 2 covers three A major patterns. You should work on them until they become second nature to you, because only then will you be able to apply them comfortably in real-life soloing situations.

Add a Comment

Similar Guitar News

Yngwie Malmsteen Lesson: The Sevens Mechanic — Video (2/24/2015)
In his latest instructional video (posted February 5), guitarist Troy Grady investigates one of the unusual asymmetrical groupings of Yngwie Malmsteen’s scale playing: a concept known as "sevens." "Although Malmsteen is known for launching a wav...
Cracking the Code with Troy Grady: Yngwie Malmsteen's Rotational Picking Mechanic (2/9/2015)
The most fundamental challenge in fast picking is also the easiest to spot from halfway across the room: the motion mechanic. To play notes with a pick, we need a way of moving it back and forth in the classic alternating down-up picking sequenc...
Guitarist Yana Mulyana Plays Yngwie Malmsteen's "Brothers" — Video (2/2/2015)
As you can see in the top video below, Indonesian guitarist Yana Mulyana has overcome some serious obstacles in order to reach his guitar-playing goals. The video, which shows Mulyana performing Yngwie Malmsteen's "Brothers," is certainly inspi...
Yngwie Malmsteen Shreds on Guitar Gods Tour — Tour (6/25/2014)
As you probably know by now, Yngwie Malmsteen is headlining the Guitar Gods Tour, a note-filled jaunt — also featuring Gary Hoey and Guns N' Roses' Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal — that is now working its way from Seattle (June 26) to Houston (July 12). ...
Yngwie Malmsteen Covers Michael Jackson's "Beat It" — Listen (6/25/2014)
Check out Yngwie Malmsteen's cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" below. The track is from Malmsteen's late-2009 album, High Impact. "It was a tribute to [Jackson], but I’ve always liked the song," Malmsteen said in a "Dear Guitar Hero" feature ...
Yngwie Malmsteen Tackles Deep Purple's "Highway Star" in the Eighties — Listen (6/17/2014)
We admit this one is random — completely inspired by Yngwie Malmsteen's action-packed visit to Guitar World HQ last week. Check out Malmsteen's high-energy instrumental cover of Deep Purple's "Highway Star" from the mid-Eighties. The track ori...
Yngwie Malmsteen, Uli Jon Roth, Gary Hoey and Bumblefoot Announce Guitar Gods Tour (4/23/2014)
This summer, Yngwie Malmsteen will join Uli Jon Roth, Gary Hoey and Guns N' Roses' Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal for the first-ever Guitar Gods festival tour. Malmsteen will headline the tour, which is billed an "epic celebration — six-plus hours — of...
Video: Guitarist Sarah Michelle Demos Seymour Duncan Yngwie Malmsteen YJM Fury Pickups (12/11/2013)
Earlier this week, the gang at Seymour Duncan tweeted this posted-in-2012 video. In the clip, a guitarist named Sarah Michelle tries out Seymour Duncan's Yngwie Malmsteen YJM Fury STK-S10 pickups, which live in her Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan Sig...
Dear Guitar Hero: Yngwie Malmsteen Answers Readers' Questions on Sweep Picking, Amps and Arrogance (8/29/2013)
FROM THE ARCHIVE: He’s the premier neoclassical shredder, known for his love of scalloped-fretboard Strats and walls of Marshall stacks. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is… What made you want to cover Michael Jackson’s “Beat It...
Listen: Yngwie Malmsteen Covers Michael Jackson's "Beat It" (8/29/2013)
Check out Yngwie Malmsteen's cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" below. The track is from Malmsteen's late-2009 album, High Impact. "It was a tribute to [Jackson], but I’ve always liked the song," Malmsteen said in a "Dear Guitar Hero" feature ...
Relentless: Yngwie Malmsteen Recounts His Rebellious Teen Years and How He Found Insiration Through Niccolo Paganini (8/28/2013)
This is an excerpt from the October 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine. For the rest of this story, plus a Dimebag Darrell poster and features on Mick Mars, Buddy Guy, the Mayhem Festival, Avenged Sevenfold, a guide to 15 fantastic electric gui...
The Record that Changed My Life: Yngwie Malmsteen Discusses Deep Purple's 'Fireball' (8/26/2013)
FROM THE ARCHIVE: Yngwie Malmsteen chooses (and discusses) the record that changed his life. Deep PurpleFireball (1971) My sister gave me Fireball for my eighth birthday, June 30, 1971, and that day my life forever change. I knew immediately th...
Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time Readers Poll: Round 1 — "For the Love of God" (Steve Vai) Vs. "Dark Star" (Yngwie Malmsteen) (6/11/2013)
A few years back, the editors of Guitar World magazine compiled what we feel is the ultimate guide to the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time. The list, which has been quoted by countless artists, websites and publications around the world, st...
Video: Yngwie Malmsteen Performs National Anthem at Miami Marlins Game (5/31/2013)
Guitar legend Yngwie Malmsteen performed the National Anthem before last night's Miami Marlins game at Marlins Park. You can check out the video, which was posted on Malmsteen's official YouTube page, below. This was the second time Malmsteen p...
Video: Yngwie Malmsteen Shreds with Alcatrazz in 1984 (4/26/2013)
For today's Flashback Friday video, we're dropping in on a young Yngwie Malmsteen, circa-1984. Fans who got to see the Graham Bonnet-led Alcatrazz perform in the early to mid-'80s were treated to bits and pieces of Malmsteen's mastery in pretty ...